Traditional recipes

Detroit's Coney Dog

Detroit's Coney Dog

In a large pot over medium-high heat, sauté the ground beef, chopped onion, and garlic until the beef is cooked thoroughly, about 5-10 minutes. Drain off half of the fat and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the tomato sauce and stir.

In a small bowl mix the cracker meal with the rest of the spices. Add to the meat and cook until the cracker meal or crushed crackers are browned. Add the water and simmer for about 1 hour. Add more water if this gets too thick. Season again with salt to taste.

You may skip this last step if you like the texture of your chili, but many people say the traditional Coney Sauce is blended to make a smoother sauce. Use either a traditional blender or food processor, but if you have an immersion blender, that is preferable. Blend until you reach a thin consistency. Let the chili simmer for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors develop.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the hot dog buns in foil and place them in oven for about 10 minutes until they’re warm.

While the buns are warming, get the hot dogs ready. The original Coney Dogs are grilled but you can steam or boil the dogs if you’d prefer. Put the hot dog in the bun, top with chili, yellow mustard, and chopped onion.

Detroit Coney Dog Dip

1. In a large pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the beef and onion season with salt. Cook, stirring often and breaking up with a spoon, until the beef is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain any fat. Stir in the tomato paste and spices season with pepper. Stir in the ketchup, stock, vinegar, sugar, and Worcestershire. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer the chili, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 20 minutes.

2. While the dip cooks, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the cut sides of the hot dog buns with mustard. Cut the hot dog buns into thirds and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake until toasted, about 6 minutes. Top the dip with cheddar, pepperoncini, white onion, and a squiggle of mustard. Serve with the toasted hot dog buns and pigs in blankets.

This Scattered Life

Anybody that has ever lived in Michigan can tell you that Koegel’s is hands down the best hot dog there is. Anywhere. Period. A debate would be senseless. Once you’ve devoured a Koegel’s hot dog you will be ruined for any other. But a Michigander consensus is lacking on which style of coney island sauce is superior. Detroit versus Flint.

A Flint Coney is much dryer than the Detroit style, but you are still going to need plenty of napkins. Unless you use utensils and eat with your pinkies in the air – which is just wrong. That is no way to eat a coney. Get in there and get messy!

A Coney Island Hot Dog (or Coney Dog or Coney) is a hot dog in a bun topped with a savory meat sauce and sometimes other toppings. It is often offered as part of a menu of dishes of Greek origin and classic American ‘diner’ dishes and often at Coney Island restaurants. It is largely a phenomenon related to immigration from Greece and the Macedonian region to the United States in the early 20th century.

Hot Dog & Bun Steamer – for folks that are serious about their dogs.

Growing up in the Flint area, my family and friends would all agree that Flint style is really the only coney dog. (Full disclosure, I have not actually polled friends & relatives. There would probably be that one weirdo that vouches for Detroit style. Better not to know the dissenter among us).

Lifelong Michiganders until our move west a few years ago, a great coney made with Koegel’s hot dog is one of the few menu items that we just can’t find out here in Colorado. And we miss them. Enough so that one of the first things we will do when we visit relatives later this month will be to stop at a Coney Island.

We have had hot dogs and sauce shipped from Koegel’s a few times. And there is a Koegel’s On the Road service now. If you can wait until the next time “On the Road” is in your area, you can avoid shipping costs. Because it’s always a good idea to have some dogs & sauce set aside in the freezer for when you have a craving that even the best steak in the world won’t satisfy.

There are several online versions of the “original” Flint coney sauce recipe. Most all of them debunk the others and claim theirs as the holy grail. The recipe I have listed here is a bastardized mashup of the ones I like best. (With a few additional tweaks).

To be clear, I did not find this recipe in a sealed vault with an authenticity affidavit from the coney sauce creator’s wife’s second cousin 3 times removed. So don’t round me up with the rest of the “swear on my mama’s grave this is the original recipe” claimants being poked with sharp sticks.

I just think this version is pretty darn close to what I grew up with, it doesn’t have any hard to find (weird) ingredients, and it’s easy – bonus! Recipe results in a large quantity. If you’re not having a coney party, the leftovers will freeze well or recipe can be easily halved.

Detroit-Style Coney Dog

In a large skillet, add one turn of the pan of oil and heat over medium-high heat. When hot, add the ground beef to the pan and break up beef with a spoon until browned and finely crumbled. Season beef with salt, pepper, chili powder, celery seed, and cumin. Stir for about 1 minute until the spices are toasted. Then add the onion and garlic and stir for about two to three minutes until softened. Add the brown sugar, tomato paste, and mustard and mix to combine. Add the stock and 3/4 cup water and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened which will take about 15 minutes.

In a large saucepan, cover the hot dogs with water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about five minutes or until heated through. If you like your dogs crisp, heat a griddle pan over medium-high and grill the hot dogs for about five minutes.

Place the dogs in rolls. Top with the chili sauce, a zigzag of mustard, and some chopped onions.

This recipe courtesy of our Feedback sponsors, Hebrew National, King's Hawaiian

Recipe Sleuth

Ok so here is another recipe that while not from Helen Reilly is still worth a good investigation as I consider it one of those recipes that everybody has "right" but then again everybody also has "wrong": Coney Sauce

The origins of the coney are many and several restaurants would argue that they were the first to make it. In short, it did not originate in Coney Island, New York however Coney Island is a significant landmark for the origin of the hot dog in the US, but that's a topic for another day.

Traditionally, a Coney Hot Dog (at least for the dogs of Michigan origin) begins with a grilled natural casing Koegel hot dog, placed in a steamed bun (some say it must be an Aunt Millie's brand hot dog bun), which is topped with Coney Sauce (not to be confused with chili), then covered with diced onions and yellow mustard. While it can be debated who needs to make the bun or even the hot dog itself, the thing that makes a Coney truly unique is the sauce. It seems that every Coney Island Restaurant identifies themselves with their unique flavor of sauce. There have even been several books published on the subject and it has been the topic of facebook discussions and who knows what else. My curiosity with the whole subject came about because my lovely wife was born and raised in the great state of Michigan and since we've been married we've lived in Minnesota and now in Indiana and our only chance to get good coney sauce has been when we've gone back to the Detroit area to visit her parents. One of the local restaurant chains (National Coney Island) does make, and ship, a "make your own" coney kit which includes their sauce, and while we've tried it, it's just not our favorite.

So anyhow, I took it as a task to research and figure out how to make Coney sauce. In my research I found that to just make Coney sauce is quite ambiguous. You have to know what kind you want to make: there's Flint style (which contains ground up hot dogs), Detroit Style (some say the "original Coney sauce), it can be made with beans, or without beans, and even within those there are variations from restaurant to restaurant. So what did I want to make? After looking into my wife's favorite coney restaurant Phoenix Coney Island the type of sauce closest to that is good old classic Detroit Coney Sauce.

So what makes Detroit Coney Sauce "Detroit Coney Sauce"? Well as it turns out simplicity and quality ingredients, which is great since I like simple. Detroit Coney Sauce consists of ground beef, onions and spices simmered over a stove for several hours. That's it, it contains no beans and especially no tomatoes. No tomatoes is key here. From what I found if you have a recipe for "Detroit Coney Sauce" that calls for tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato juice, or anything else with tomatoes in it then your just making chili sauce. "Real Detoit Coney Sauce has no tomatoes".

SIDE NOTE: in my research I also found that "original" Detroit Coney Sauce may also contain beef heart which while that might be the case, I refused to put that in my sauce. I suspect that it would alter the flavor a bit (although I'm not sure how much having never knowingly ate beef heart).

So simplicity, good I can handle that. What else. water. Water is another key component that makes the sauce a sauce. As I mentioned earlier, Detroit Coney Sauce is not what most Americans would call chili. It's much more runny than chili and in all honesty would be more like a soup if eaten by itself. So water is key to make that consistency.

Ok so research aside, on to my recipe for Detoit Coney Sauce. First, beef and water. I use about 1 pound of ground beef and as I said earlier the key is water. So start by taking the raw ground beef, putting it in a bowl and covering it with water (about 2-3 cups) and stir until it's broken up. It will look something like this:

Recipe: "Almost Flint-Style Coney Sauce", and Flint vs. Detroit Coneys

There's actually more to this story than what I wrote there. At one time, coneys made with Angelo's coney sauce were called Flint-style coneys, although I'm not sure that's true any longer. (I know they were listed on the menu that way at the Mega Coney Island in Fenton just a few years ago.) But I've had so many of them in my lifetime, I can still taste that sauce if I simply think about it for a second or two. At one point, living in an apartment on Franklin in Flint, right down the road from the original location, on a clear day I could smell those things cooking when a breeze would waft that wonderful smell south that couple blocks to our balcony. A few years later, when the U.S. Navy parked me out on the east coast for about 6 years, my parents would head to that same original Angelo's location on the corner of Franklin and Davison Roads and pick up a half-gallon of the sauce. Theyɽ then fly out to where I was stationed in Maryland and Virginia, with the sauce and some Koegel Viennas in a carried-on cooler, and a 12-pack of

in mom's suitcase. (Cadbury Schweppes had only recently purchased Vernors from A&W, and the drink wasn't yet available out east.)

A few years ago my mom loaned me a blue three-ring binder. Sheɽ had a simple Brother word processor (i.e., a glorified "typewriter") for a number of years, and come to find out, sheɽ been archiving a large number of family recipes. (Unfortunately sheɽ not learned how to use the floppy disk drive in the word processor so all that will have to be done again.) Looking through this volume, I found a number of recipes for dishes I had become more than familiar with. One recipe in particular caught my eye, even though it was nothing more than a list of ingredients:

1 TBS Shortening 1 TBLS butter
2 chopped onions 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/2 tbs garlic powder 1 TBLS chili powder
1 TBLS prepared mustard 1 (6 oz) can tomato
(6 oz) water sauce or catsup
4 or 5 weiners (hot dogs) ground
salt and papper
Aunt Fern

There are certain reasons this recipe ended up being more than just interesting to me:

'Coney Detroit' Tells History Of Detroit's Coney Island Hot Dog (PHOTOS)

A Michigan food tradition finally gets the memorial it deserves with this week's official release of "Coney Detroit," a mouth-watering coffee table book by authors Katherine Yung and Joe Grimm.

An explanatory note for non-Michigan readers: A coney dog is a hot dog with onions, yellow mustard and a meaty coney sauce. For less than $2, one up (a dog with everything) is a cheap meal served in the hundreds of coney island restaurants in metro Detroit, as well as other locations across the state.

Anyone confused about why Wayne State University Press would release a book about a hot dog has clearly never sampled the regional delicacy. With closely-guarded sauce recipes, hand-cut onions, and natural-casing dogs sourced from local companies, the coney formula has been tested and perfected in Detroit for nearly a century.


Grim pitched the idea for a book devoted to the love and history of the coney to Yung, a Detroit Free Press business reporter, over lunch at -- not surprisingly -- a coney island. While Yung didn't grow up in Detroit, she can't resist a good coney, or the hunt for a story.

"It was the type of project where you didn't really know what you were going to find," she explained. "There's no historic archive . we had to go out and find the people."

One of the main stories in the book plays a central role in Detroit lore: the epic feud between dueling restaurants Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island over who has the better dog. The two coneys, which sit side-by-side on Michigan Ave. downtown, were started by two brothers, but different recipes and decor have spurred rabid customer loyalties to one or the other.

The regional specialty hot dogs have been part of Detroit's food scene for decades, and the book traces coneys' beginnings and spread throughout the Detroit area.

"We wanted it to focus on coney islands that really have some history behind them and were really significant," Yung explained. "Narrowing things down, figuring out what not to include was one of the big challenges."

In an interview with Found Michigan, Grimm explained their theory of why coney islands exploded in Detroit:

"Only in this state, at the time that coney islands were taking off, did you have the auto industry. It was so busy here that the occupancy rate was over 100 percent. Everything that could be rented was rented, and some of it was rented two or three times a day. If you had a room, you had to be out by 8 o’clock in the morning because another person was coming off his shift and needed your bed. So when Greeks were starting coney islands in lots of states, only Detroit was going crazy. And coney islands were a great thing for a city that was full of young men who wanted a hot meal for not much money, in a hurry."

But while Detroit's declining population and economic downfall has led to some slower sales for coneys, Yung said for the most part, the restaurants and the dogs have weathered the storm.

"They generally can survive the tough economic times of the Detroit economy," she said. "Just because they're cheap -- it can cost you less than five dollars [for a meal]."

Grimm and Yung examine the distinctions of a Flint coney, and even find ex-Michiganders who love coneys so much they started coney island restaurants in others states.

And "Coney Detroit" answers the most important question: How do you eat a coney?

"I will admit it is a messy type of food," Yung said. "If I'm wearing nice clothes I might try to be more careful and use a knife and fork. If not, I'll pick it up with two hands and scarf it down."

For more on the Chili War of 1969, why Leo's Coney Island was almost Petes's, how Flint does it differently and where to get a coney if you're in Las Vegas, check out "Coney Detroit."

Yung, Grim and the photographers are donating royalties from the book to Gleaners Community Foodbank of Southeastern Michigan. The authors will be on hand at a release party at Gleaners on Wednesday, April 4, where coney lovers can pick up a signed copy as well as a coney dog, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at 2131 Beaufait Street, Detroit. The event costs $3, or three canned goods, with all proceeds going to the food bank. Save your spot with an RSVP, and for more local events throughout April and May, see the "Coney Detroit" website.

Get a sneak peek below with photographs from the book's team of metro-Detroit photographers:

What is a Coney Island Hot Dog?

I have read article after article online about traditional coney island hot dogs, and I am convinced that no one will ever agree on what a “true” coney island hot dog recipe is. And that’s ok by me. I’ve never been to Coney Island, and I’ve never had an authentic coney island hot dog. And I find it funny that it doesn’t seem like they even originated on Coney Island – but from Greek and Macedonian immigrants in Michigan.

One thing that everyone will agree on, though, is something that sets a coney island hot dog apart from a chili dog – the sauce is an all meat sauce. No beans.

I do love a good chili dog (with beans!) but you won’t find that same sauce on a coney dog.

Another thing that distinguishes a coney dog is serving it topped with onions and mustard.

Detroit Coney Dog Recipe & Prepping for Labor Day

This coney dog recipe is the closest I’ve found to the taste and texture of the coney dogs I grew up eating in Michigan. Coney dogs vary by region, but they all have the same basic ingredient. This is my favorite coney dog recipe along with some instructions on how to properly build a coney dog!

I can’ t believe that Labor Day is this weekend! Where did the summer go? School has officially started and my kids are already discussing Halloween costumes so I guess it’s time to hang up the towels, put away the sunscreen and call it a summer. But not without one more party on Labor Day!

My sister and I always plan a little get together on Labor Day for a few friends. We like to keep the plans simple and usually have a little pot luck style party. We enjoy the last remnants of summer fruit and fire up the grill for one more round of burgers and dogs. This year along with the traditional Hebrew National hot dogs, I also picked up the fat free version for any guests watching their figures.

My daughter only likes the “big hot dogs” so I surprised her with a package of Hebrew National Quarter Pounders! She’s 7! I find it amusing that she prefers the quarter pounders while her dad prefers just the traditional Hebrew National all beef hot dogs.

We like to provide an assortment of hot dog toppings for our guests. Gulden’s Mustard and sauerkraut are a must have for my New Yorker husband. I will admit to putting ketchup on my hot dogs – which almost causes a divorce every time I do it! But my favorite hot dog topping is coney meat!

I love coney dogs! It’s in my blood. Both of my parents were born and raised in Jackson, Michigan, the birthplace of the coney dog. I first made this coney dog recipe for my son’s first birthday 1st birthday party and coneys have been requested for every hot dog themed meal since. I will double or triple the recipe and let cook in the slow cooker and then serve the meat right out of the slow cooker. Leftover coney meat freezes great for a meal later on, too.

There are varying ways to put together a coney dog depending on where you are from. Buns can be steamed or grilled. You can cook the dogs in butter on a griddle, warm them in hot water or grill them up. I like yellow mustard and fried onions on my coneys and my husband likes Gulden’s brown mustard and raw onions. Just as long as you have Hebrew National all beef hot dogs underneath, you’ll be just fine to create your own masterpiece.


Coney Sauce

For even better flavor, make this mild, fine-grained chili ahead of time and reheat just before serving.

  1. Combine the beef and the water in a heavy saucepan and stir together, breaking up the beef into very fine pieces.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine well.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened and well flavored, about 50 minutes.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasonings. 
  1. Grill hot dogs to desired doneness.
  2. Arrange hot dogs in toasted buns.
  3. Top each hot dog with plenty of Coney sauce, followed by a drizzle of mustard and a scattering of chopped onions.

In This Recipe

Applegate Naturals ® Turkey Hot Dog

Applegate Organics ® The Great Organic Uncured Turkey Hot Dog ™ Brand

Applegate Naturals ® Beef Hot Dog

Applegate Organics ® The Great Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dog ™ Brand - 10oz

Applegate Naturals ® Stadium Beef & Pork Hot Dog

Applegate Organics ® The Great Organic Uncured Chicken Hot Dog ™ Brand

Applegate Organics ® The Great Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dog ™ Brand - 14oz

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* Animals raised with no antibiotics ever or growth promotants, on vegetarian feed with no animal by products (beef is 100% grass-fed) and with space to engage in natural behaviors and promote natural growth.

** Applegate requires all animals be raised without antibiotics. Applegate is committed to advancing agriculture and processing systems like organic, non-GMO and regenerative farming.

Watch the video: Detroits Culinary Cult Classics: Coney Dogs and Pizza - Zagat Documentaries, Episode 15 (December 2021).